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Many people are under the misconception that professional organizers are perfectly organized in their own lives, and always have been. Although it’s true for some, it’s certainly not always the case, and I’ve asked my organizing colleague and dear friend Janine Adams, CPO-CD to tell us about her own experience and what the side-effects of being an disorganization expert are.

I’d been a freelance writer for ten years back in 2005 when I hit the end of my rope. I was working on a book about chimpanzees and it was sucking the life out of me. I knew I had to make a change. And in a moment of inspiration, I decided to become a professional organizer and I founded my company, Peace of Mind Organizing™.

My entire adult life I’ve been preoccupied with organizing. Unlike Geralin, I wasn’t organizing my Barbie clothes accessories as a child. I was spreading them all over the carpet until my mom yelled at me to clean them up, and then I’d just jam them back into Barbie’s Dream House.

But as an externally messy (but internally organized) person, I’d sought solutions to keep my surroundings organized throughout my career. As a self-employed writer who had to meet deadlines and run a business, organization was essential. I’d read lots of books and managed to get it together. And I decided I’d love nothing more than to help others do the same.

When I hit on the idea of becoming an organizer, I made a short list of things I felt this career would give me that being a writer was not giving me:

  • The ability to tangibly and immediately help people
  • Acknowledged respect for my knowledge and expertise
  • Payment at time of service (no small thing)

Turns out I was right. Being a professional organizer does give me these things and they’re all very important to me. But becoming a PO had some unforeseen effects as well.

I’ve tried to embrace my messiness. I feel very fortunate that I’m not a perfectionist, since I see how paralyzing perfectionism is in my clients. Still my innate messiness can be a little embarrassing. I try to be open about being a messy person, even if it makes me feel a little uncomfortable. I’ve learned to share my struggles and foibles with my clients and blog readers and I think it endears me to them.

I buy less. Since I’ve become a PO, my acquisition habits have changed drastically. At one point in my life, I would bargain shop for fun. I’d go to a store like T.J. Maxx and buy clothes just because they were a great deal. And I’ve been known to donate those items with the tags still on (some bargain, right?) I don’t do that any more. I make purchases mindfully, thinking about where I’ll store something before I bring it into my home. More often than not, I say no to items I’m tempted to buy.

I give gifts differently. Being a professional organizer has also changed my gift-giving habits. I try very hard not to give anything that could become clutter, since I know from working with my clients that a gift (even if it’s not useful or loved) is often one of the hardest things to part with. I’m much more inclined to give services, time together, or cut flowers as a gift.

I’m more patient. I’m not sure I would have characterized myself as a patient person before I became an organizer. But now I have the patience of Job when I’m working with a client who’s having a difficult time making decisions. That patience has also taught me the power of silence and giving a person space to think. This new quality transfers to other areas of my life a well.

I’ve become less welcome. Being a PO seems to have changed how others perceive me as well. I think they expect I’m born organized and, to my horror, they think I’m going to judge them if they’re not neat and organized. Of course organizers know that we’re the last people to judge – being non-judgmental is an absolute prerequisite for being a PO, in my opinion. I’ve found that acquaintances don’t want to invite me into their homes, because they’re embarrassed. If someone feels that way, I try to reassure her that since I frequently work in severe clutter situations I won’t bat an eye at the condition of her home.

I know that for most people their work is part of their identity. That’s certainly true of me as a professional organizer. But my chosen profession goes beyond merely my identity to how I perceive the world.

Janine Adams, CPO® founded Peace of Mind Organizing LLC in 2005 out of a desire to help people who struggle with organizing issues. She offers personal assessments, hands-on organizing assistance, Freedom Filer® consulting, time-management consulting, coaching, and speaking. She works with clients in St. Louis and elsewhere. Visit Peace of Mind Organizing’s website.

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    1. First, I have to say that I love the show Hoarders. Seeing the professional organizers on that show have made me think that I might be interested in that profession. I am a Realtor right now and have done some staging. I had a cleaning business about 10 years ago. This article made me feel so good because as I read all the books on organizing I know that I myself am not as organized as I would like to be. It made me wonder, if I am not perfectly organized, how can I go and help someone else get organized. But, when I had my cleaning business, my house was not perfectly neat when I left to go clean someone else’s, but I went and cleaned just fine. The clients I liked most were the elderly women and because of a mastectomy they could not vacuum and clean their houses the way they wanted to,,so they needed my help. I love to help people, first and foremost. Right now, being a Realtor I help people find a house to live in. And I love houses! Staging them, cleaning them, selling them, it does not matter. Now maybe I could help organize them!